Rangers Surge, Isles Captain & Sabres Search

1. Another big game from Rick Nash tonight at The Garden and there will be no need to do any sightseeing on Monday in Old Montreal, New Montreal nor the Bell Centre.

2. It would be foolhardy to suggest that Game 6 is in the bag for New York because as they say, “The puck she takes some funny bounces.”

3. Just ask Montreal’s Alexei Emelin, the Canadiens’ defenseman who watched Chris Kreider‘s shot do a beautiful billiard bounce off the Habs’ skate and onto Mika Zibanejad‘s stick. (And you know the rest.)

4. Yeah, Mika wore the winner’s fedora in the dressing room but I take my hat off to Dan Girardi. The workhorse D-man is hitting at the right time, defending at the right time and a reason the Blueshirts are up three games to two.

5. The Hab who worries me most is Finnish-born Artturi Lehkonen. This guy is a natural scorer with tremendous speed. Plus, he’s like barbed wire in the corners.

6. We know that The Garden’s decibel count tonight is likely to break existing records with the first puck drop. That’s why the Blueshirts must remain focused and, most of all, composed throughout the din.

7. The Rangers trick is to do the above, plus, hit — legally, of course — every Canadien in sight and play three periods the way they played the third frame and overtime on Thursday.

8. If you believe in arithmetic, try this: Prior to this year, the Rangers won each of their last 14 playoff series in which they earned a win in Game 5. This dates back to the Patrick Division Semifinals against Philly in 1986. (A Thank You note to the Blueshirts’ PR guys for this mighty math.)

9. For me, it’s a toss-up as to which New York D-man has been the most pleasant surprise. The rookie Brady Skjei is playing like a vet while the acquired Nick Holden and Brendan Smith have featured good two-way moves. Smitty can handle his dukes darn well, too.

10. A sight I’d like to see is Michael Grabner on a penalty-killing breakaway. It will do my heart good. (Can’t say the same for Carey Price.)

11. One of the most amazing rituals this spring surrounds John Tavares‘ future. Every manner of speculation is being aired by Islanders fans, hoping, of course, that J.T. will remain with the club that drafted him.

12. Removing the “Interim Coach” tag from Doug Weight and, in turn, naming him “Head Coach” lends substance to the Tavares “He Stays” camp because the Captain and the Bench Boss are buddies.

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 19: Doug Weight of the New York Islanders looks on from the bench during his first game as head coach against the Dallas Stars as John Tavares #91 waits to enter the game at the Barclays Center on January 19, 2017 in Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)

13. Bitter-Sweet in the American Hockey League has to be the saga of New Jersey’s AHL club in Albany making the playoffs. That’s the good news. The bad part is that, no matter what, the franchise will move to Binghamton.

14. During the 1994 NHL work-stoppage, SportsChannel’s New Jersey Devils production crew moved up to Albany and covered the club then called the River Rats. We did six games in the big arena on South Pearl Street and loved it.

15. Albany was hot for AHL hockey then and the Devils featured enough farm talent for their River Rats to win the 1994-95 Calder Cup — with Robbie Ftorek behind the bench — as league champs.

16. The Rats’ roster included Brian Rolston, Stevie Sullivan, Kevin Dean, Sergei Brylin, Corey Schwab and Mike Dunham, each of whom made it up to the big club in New Jersey. They later were followed by a then unknown center out of Michigan U — John Madden.

17. There’s a long line of aspirants awaiting interviews for the Sabres’ coaching and managing vacancies. Who knows, Lindy Ruff could be back in Buff again. A hot candidate for the GM job is Julien BriseBois. He’s Stevie Yzerman’s right-hand man in Tampa Bay and highly regarded through pro hockey.

BUFFALO, NY - NOVEMBER 17: Head coach Lindy Ruff of the Dallas Stars watches the action against the Buffalo Sabres during an NHL game on November 17, 2015 at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

18. Ownership often is impressed with aspirants who have “Stanley Cup-winner” on their resume. That helps explain why ex-L.A. Kings boss Dean Lombardi also figures to get serious consideration in Buffalo.

19. Meanwhile, ex-Islanders center Travis Green is being touted as a possible winner of the Vancouver Canucks Coaching Derby.

20. Green has done excellent work developing talent for the Canucks on their AHL Utica Comets sextet.

21. The Rangers’ 8 p.m. start for tonight’s critical Game 6 against the Canadiens reminds me that back in the Original Six days, Rangers games didn’t begin until 8:30 p.m.

22. Before the Habs-Blueshirts playoff began there was some doubt whether Jimmy Vesey would even be included among Alain Vigneault‘s starters. The fact is the rookie has shown plenty of poise and jump.

23. Middletown, New Jersey native James Van Riemsdyk turns unrestricted free agent this summer which makes the regular season 26-goal man an attractive commodity.

24. Naturally, the Maple Leafs could re-sign JVR, who currently has a $4.25 million annual cap hit, but Toronto’s playoff-surprising sextet may have too many other contracts to sign, making The Vanner available.

25. Frankly, I’m surprised that Skjei hasn’t been talked up as a Calder Trophy (rookie-of-the-year) candidate.

26. A Lakeville, Minnesota product, Skjei has matured faster than anyone could have imagined. This kid has poise to spare and can play both sides of the D.

27. The Pride Of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Bobby Ryan has turned into Mister Clutch for the Senators. If Ottawa moves past Boston and into the second playoff round, Ryan will be one big reason why. If nothing else, Bobby is proving that the offseason work the Sens’ general staff did with him has paid dividends.

28. Figuring out the style of refereeing from game to game is like forecasting the weather a year in advance. On Thursday in Montreal, the zebras adopted a “Let them play” philosophy which pleased The Maven no end.

29. It also seemed to satisfy my MSG Networks colleague Dave Maloney who not only affectionately called it “Old Time Hockey” but “A Street Fight” as well. (Wish I’d have said that.)

30. What I saw on Thursday was the burgeoning of Kreider, Kevin Hayes, J.T. Miller and Derek Stepan. If it continues, New York’s advantage of rolling four good lines could be the series-clincher.

31. There is a caveat here that cannot be ignored; the Habs also ice a darn good hockey club!